22.04.2016 02:35 h

Race for Europe enters home straight in France

The battle for European places in France's Ligue 1 is set to come down to the wire with just four matches of the season remaining and several teams still in the running.

Monaco reclaimed second place from Lyon last weekend after a 2-1 win over Marseille, while Bruno Genesio's men slipped to third after being held 1-1 by fellow Champions League hopefuls Nice.

Four straight wins have fired Saint-Etienne back into contention along with Lille, who were at one stage in a relegation scrap before reeling off six victories in succession.

Rennes' charge has been slowed by back-to-back defeats but the Bretons still harbour realistic hopes of qualifying for the Europa League, although their challenge could peter out should they lose to Monaco on Sunday.

"There's a scent of Europe. I'm sure that everything is still possible. We're a bit behind our direct rivals (...) but a victory against Monaco would put us back in the mix," said Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil.

Monaco, meanwhile, still must go to Lyon on the penultimate weekend of the season which could determine the destination of France's second automatic Champions League qualifying spot behind runaway title-winners Paris Saint-Germain.

Last weekend's draw at Parc OL, in which Lyon played for over an hour with 10 men, snapped a five-game winning run at home for OL, who will aim to respond on Saturday at relegation-threatened Toulouse.

The visitors will be without the suspended Maxwel Cornet, while time is running out for Toulouse with three points separating them from safety despite a mini-revival under Pascal Dupraz.

Nice coach Claude Puel felt it was a case of two points lost at Lyon and said beating struggling Reims on Friday was imperative if they are to remain on course for Europe's premier club competition.

"The peak of our season is on Friday. If we're not good against Reims, it's not even worth talking about the other matches, whether it's those of our opponents or our own," said Puel, whose side also face fifth-place Saint-Etienne in week 37.

Saint-Etienne, who are level on points with Nice, have based their recent success on an impenetrable defence and host Lorient on Sunday, while Lille won't face Angers until next Wednesday with Frederic Antonetti's side taking on PSG in the League Cup final at the Stade de France this weekend.

Crisis-hit Marseille enjoyed a rare highlight in a disastrous season as they set up a showdown with bitter rivals PSG in next month's French Cup final following Wednesday's 1-0 victory at second-tier Sochaux.

However, they remain just six points clear of the bottom three and will hope interim coach Franck Passi, who has stepped in after the dismissal of Michel, can finally bring about an end to their 14-game winless run at the Stade Velodrome against Nantes.

Gazelec Ajaccio host Bastia in a Corsican derby given added importance in light of the top-flight newcomers' battle to avoid an immediate return to Ligue 2.

Gazelec have won just once since the turn of the year and find themselves trailing 17th-place Reims by two points, with games against Lyon and PSG still to come.

Fixtures (kick-off times GMT)